Liver, cholesterol and digestion

The liver is a large organ located in the upper right abdomen. It is also an organ that performs many functions important for our existence, related to the synthesis, metabolism and storage of compounds produced or intaken into the body from the outside. Every day, the liver is affected by a multitude of factors, some of which can lead to this organ being damaged.

Symptoms of the spoiled liver

This condition often has no symptoms because the liver has no concrete innervation from which we could feel actual pain being a signal of inflammation or other inferior states of it. Malaise, general fatigue and weakness may indicate dysfunction of this organ. Liver functions disorders can also lead to digestive problems – they cause flatulence, a feeling of heaviness, stomach ache, and nausea. In blood tests, however, an increase in the level of liver enzymes (ALAT and AST) and bilirubin can be observed. It’s the main indication of problems with the liver.

Over time, there may be changes in the structure of the organ, leading to steatosis and fibrosis, i.e. cirrhosis. They are especially dangerous for the liver

Plant extracts with a protective effect on the liver

Of the hepatoprotective substances of natural origin, silymarin, isolated from milk thistle, is undoubtedly the most clinically studied compound. Much research has also been devoted to phospholipid compounds extracted from soybeans. Artichoke extracts, colza herb, yarrow herb, dandelion root, St. John’s wort and celandine herb also have scientifically proven liver support activity.

The healing properties of milk thistle were already known in Antiquity (described by Theophrastus in the 4th century BC). The active part of the plant is seeds, from which a flavonolignan complex called silymarin is obtained (the most important of which is silybin). These compounds protect liver cells against toxic factors and support regeneration processes of the damaged organ. Silymarin is an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and also inhibits the processes of fibrosis and the penetration of toxins into the liver cells. Also, it stimulates protein synthesis in damaged organs and reduces the level of bad cholesterol and triglycerides. Scientific studies also suggest silymarin’s anti-rheumatic and anti-tumour activity.

Phospholipids obtained from soybean are polyunsaturated fatty acid esters. After oral intake, these compounds are absorbed into the bloodstream and then incorporated into biological membranes, increasing their fluidity and stimulating membrane transport. In the case of the liver, we are talking about the so-called stabilization of hepatocyte membranes. Clinical studies confirm their usefulness in the treatment of steatosis and hepatitis caused by alcohol abuse and viral infection (mainly hepatitis C). Like silymarin, phospholipids have a positive effect on cholesterol levels, helping to increase its solubility in the bile ducts and thereby preventing the deposition of cholesterol deposits.